Yucatecan Writers’ Day

Some of the English language writers st the breakfast
Some of the English language writers st the breakfast

In Mexico, it is customary to give recognition and pay homage to individuals and groups that contribute to our society’s quality of life. In fact, the government actually designates a special day of the year to celebrate the myriad of professional and private groups that impact our wellbeing.

In addition to the ones we are familiar with such as Mothers Day and Fathers Day – in Mexico – there is a Day of the Doctors, Teachers’ Day, Day of the Mailmen, Day of the Engineers and so on.

On Tuesday December 20th, I attended the annual Yucatecan Writers’ Day breakfast, held at the Siglo XXI Convention Center.

In fact, this is the fifth year that English language writers have been invited to the event, and we all feel honored to be included.

The Director of SEDACULTA, Roger Metri Duarte, gave a short welcome speech, then he and a panel of well-known writers gave out the SEDECULTA awards for Literature in four genres: Playwriting, Short Fiction, Poetry in the Maya language, and Poetry  in the Spanish language. One of the recipients, Fernando Leal Galaviz read a short essay: Why Writers Write.

Winners of the SEDACULTURA awards for writing
Winners of the SEDACULTA’s awards for writing

I enjoyed his analysis because after extolling all of the lofty ideals that writers purport to, he concluded with, “We write because we have something we want to say, and we hope our readers will value and identify with that.”

In the 1940s, Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith, an influential and widely-read columnist was asked if turning out a daily column was a lot of work. “Why no,” said Red, “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.” To add insult to injury, Ernest Hemmingway is often given credit for that witty quip.

Lately several people have asked me: Don’t you like writing anymore? You hardly ever blog, and you haven’t written a book for a while. You don’t even post much on facebook.

These comments and yesterday’s Dia del Escritor Yucateco breakfast have brought on some reflections.

The truth is that I love writing. I began with an avalanche of letters when I moved to Mexico in 1976 – it was the only way to stay in touch with my far-away family and friends.  In 1980, someone showed one of my letters to an editor at The Mexico City News – and he hired me to be the Merida correspondent. I continued in that job until 1992. During the same 12 year period, I wrote travel pieces for magazines and guide books.

For the next two decades, most of my writing involved college course synopsizes, class plans, grant proposals, and the like. Then I published four books: Tomando Agua del Pozo in 2007; Magic Made in Mexico, 2010; a novel, The Woman Who Wanted the Moon in 2012; and a family memoir called CIRCLES in 2015. Since starting my blog, Writing From Merida, in 2009, I have made more than 1,000 entries. I’ve also contributed short stories to anthologies and magazines. Book tours, readings, conferences and workshops are other writing related activities I participate in and thoroughly enjoy.

But it takes a significant amount of time to research, compose and write even a short piece. I have a lot going on in my life, and unfortunately, time to do all I want to do is in short supply.

I spend lots of time with my husband, family, friends, and my granddaughter!

Spanish is Emma’s current challenge, but she is coming along well. She already speaks English and Norwegian. Imagine, not yet 4 years old, and she’s working on her third language. We draw and paint together. She points to the “E” in her storybooks and says, “That’s my letter.”One of the phrases she can say in Spanish is – Vamos a pintar – Let’s paint. Language development experts say you learn what you need to, and I am filled with happiness to know that she needs to express herself with a paintbrush – she’s a chip off the old block.

Besides Emma’s art projects, I have my own painting, and yes, I am writing a new book – more about that project when it is further along.

I travel and I feel grateful to have seen as much of the world as I have. I hope our life will continue just as it is – for many more happy years.

Although I feel Jorge and I have worked hard for what we have – keeping it may be a challenge. Our poor planet is suffering and this affects us all. I fear that the political path some nations have chosen will contribute to even more inequality and unfair distribution of wealth. We are on a slippery slope.

God willing, saner minds will prevail, and we’ll scramble back onto solid ground. Meanwhile I’ll keep writing – I hope you’ll keep reading.

This is the entrance to the convention center - NOT - Uxmal!
This is the entrance to the convention center – NOT – Uxmal!

I am shocked

democracy

It has been a full day since the US election and (hopefully I’m wrong but…) I feel sure American historians will look back on November 8, 2016 with shame and regret.

When Donald Trump announced his intention to run for the presidency, I felt shocked. A less fit candidate I could not imagine. I never believed he would be elected. I did not want to believe that could happen.

However, now it is a fact — Donald Trump will be the next “leader of the free world.”

Trump’s victory speech began with a salute to Hillary Clinton, who he said “fought hard”. I believe Mexicans need to emulate her and look for ways to avoid being dragged deeper into the economic, political and social abyss.

There are those who say Trump will not actually carry out his threats. Maybe he won’t, but one gruesome fact remains, US voters elected him despite his anti-Mexico, anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, anti-establishment, anti-human rights platform.  So what can we hope for?

On the American home front, Trump will no doubt repeal many of the hard-won human rights. One wonders who he will appoint to the Supreme Court. What will happen to Obama Care? What about protection under the law for LGBTIQ individuals and their families? I tremble at the thought of him holding the nuclear codes.

Trump has threatened to rip up the free trade agreement with Mexico. Even though the migrant workers have already paid deductions, he says he will further tax the money they send home to their families. He boasts that he will build a wall on the southern U.S. border to keep out those trying to cross over to fill vacant jobs. On top of this insult, he says he will force Mexico to pay for the 3,201 kilometers (1,989 miles) of construction.

The Mexican peso free fell after the announcement that Trump had triumphed. Fortunately the currency has stabilized a little but it is obvious that our precarious position will be further rocked over the next four years.

My screaming, crying and gnashing of teeth won’t help, but neither can I keep completely silent. I implore Mexico’s “fearless leaders” to step up to the plate with strategies that will keep us from getting completely squashed.

The fox is loose in the henhouse

I now realize just how many USA voters have been deluded by Donald Trump’s rhetoric. And after last Wednesday, Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto also sees the writing on the wall.

Instead of denouncing Donald Trump for the insults he has dumped on our country, Enrique Peña Nieto invited him to a private tête à tête. I suppose our naïve president thought he could reason with the US republican candidate, but alas, that is not possible. The invitation was tantamount to turning the fox loose in the henhouse!

No ambiguity with Trump though – once safely back in his homeland, he cynically spewed more venom against Mexico. He continues to insist he will build a wall along the border (that Mexico will pay for) and he will deport 11,000,000 Mexicans from the USA.

During his campaign, he has beaten Mexico to a bloody pulp. And in the process, he has fostered deep racial division between citizens of the USA and their Latin American neighbors. Whether he wins or loses the election, the hatred has been cultivated. I fear it will endure because everyone wants to blame someone or something for their own deficiencies. I resent Donald Trump more than you can possibly imagine.

Donald Trump has but ONE perspective – his own. He was born into wealth and he is used to getting his way. His arrogance blinds him from the realities of the world as a whole. And like it or not, the president of the United States of America MUST demonstrate global vision and rational behavior.

The population of Mexico is about 120,000,000 – 55.3 million of them living in extreme poverty. The government provides sporadic food hampers, basic health care and rudimentary education to its most needy citizens, but this is like trying to stop a hemorrhage with a Band-Aid. Children all over the country go hungry. Thank God, I have never seen my family in need, but if this ever happened, I am quite sure I would not think twice about trying to work “illegally” in a neighboring country.  What would you do?

These desperate people are the 11,000,000 “evil” Mexicans that Donald Trump lambastes every chance he gets.  Certainly a miniscule percentage of the arrivals from the south must be criminals – every nation has bad elements. However, US law enforcement agencies quickly spot their kind and “dispatch” them – by one means or another.

The vast majority of the illegal immigrants are young men. They risk their lives to enter the USA because they don’t have any alternative. Most have known back-breaking labor since childhood – like carrying heavy blocks on their heads and mixing cement all day in the sweltering sun – to earn a pittance. They dream of going “north” where they will make enough money to help support their families. Even $100.00 USD a week is an enormous help. Can you imagine that?

Young women also try to make it across the border. They hope that sewing in an American sweat shop or cleaning hotel rooms will open doors for them. During the journey, many disguise themselves as men to avoid sexual assault.

Farming families living in cardboard shacks beside their dried-up fields hear about the fertile agricultural land in los Estados Unidos and they travel on foot to get there.  Many who start the journey die along the way. If they actually enter the USA, they are sitting ducks for all sorts of ruthless individuals who will exploit them – any way they can.

Trump claims these illegal immigrants steal jobs from Americans. Fruit picking, heavy clearing and cleaning, gardening, service industry positions and the like – the new arrivals get hired because they show an eagerness to work under almost any terms. They are used to being exploited – they don’t care – as long as they make the money they need.

Illegal drug use, racial inequality, gang violence, and other traps have ensnarled many US-born citizens in a vicious cycle of poverty. BUT even the most down-on-their-luck families have access to social assistance programs. Many do not seek help because they don’t have the confidence to do so. They have been duped into believing they are not in control of their destiny.

Donald Trump does not care about the human drama on either side of the Rio Grande – he uses fear to his advantage. I detest how his Machiavellian maneuvering has eroded the innate goodness and ingenuity of the American people. He has successfully deluded millions of US voters into believing his outright lies and exaggerations. He makes scapegoats of the poor who have no rights in “the land of the free”.

Donald Trump’s behavior repulses me. I remember seeing him pointing his finger and shouting, “Dismissed!!!” on his reality TV show. He looked as though he enjoyed seeing the rejected interns cringe and cry. I see the way he disrespects and degrades women, especially us older ones. He is a braggart and a bigot.

Yesterday I saw a post by Roald Dahl on Facebook:

roald dahl

I shared the post on my own timeline and commented:

In this competitive world, “kind” is not cool. But I agree with Roald. Kindness and loyalty are what it takes to keep the world on track. Come to think of it — maybe the absence of these two attributes is why our planet is in such a mess?

Citizens of the USA need to vote – and vote responsibly – no one will benefit from having a despot like Donald Trump in the White House.

***Note: Please feel free to share the content of this post, but if you do so, please let me know where and how it will be used.

Let’s not lose our heads

Isn’t this rich. What right does a Canadian living in Mexico have to give opinions on the elections in the United States ?

So read a message I received yesterday. As I stressed in my July 24th post, the US presidential race affects the whole world. I hold citizenship of the two countries that border the USA – I’ve no vote but feel I have every “right” to voice my opinion.  After all, the outcome will affect me greatly.

And it seems I am not the only “foreigner” outing the content of emails.

On Friday, Wikileaks released a stash of deleted emails that showed how Clinton supporters tried to undercut the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders. Apparently the unflattering missives were obtained by Russian hackers.

Sanders said he found the emails “outrageous”, but added, “they were not a great shock to me… there’s no question to my mind, no question to any objective observer’s mind, the DNC was supporting Hilary Clinton, and I’m not shocked by this.”

The senator declined to focus his anger towards Hilary Clinton. He saved it for Trump. Sanders said he was proud of the concessions his campaign had won from Clinton on the Democratic platform, and praised her vice-presidential pick, Tim Kaine, as “an extremely bright guy, an extremely nice guy”.

Let’s not lose our heads over this. “The most important issue is defeating Donald Trump, the worst candidate for president that I have seen in my lifetime,” Sanders said, “I can’t speak for 13 million people, but I think most of my supporters understand Trump has got to be defeated; we need to elect as many progressives as possible.”

Bernie Sanders is pragmatic. When one strategy doesn’t work, he moves on to the next.

Many heard Sanders’ paused and prudent replies and sighed. “He should be our candidate.” But he is not – I think that Sanders supporters should follow their leader and quit lamenting. They need to get behind Hilary Clinton in order to defeat Trump.

And to my “anonymous antagonist” – no worries – I won’t make commenting on US politics a regular feature on this blog. But when I have something to say, I will say it. Time to move on. There is important work to be done.

Bless your hearts, but…

During my years living in Merida, I have met a number of people from the southern United States. They have many endearing qualities and the one I love best, is their habit of prefacing any criticism with, “Well, bless your heart, but…”

Today’s post is not meant to offend any private individuals, but I do have a point to make.  So I’ll borrow the southern expression…

Bless your hearts but… citizens of the United States of America …  you have important work to do.

You’ll notice I am not calling you “Americans”. You do not have sole claim to that moniker; every man, woman and child who lives in North, Central or South America is an “American”. It is important for everyone to be conscious of this. And what happens in the United States of America has a direct effect on all us other “Americans”.

I do not believe that citizens of the USA are aware of how the insidious power brokers of their country are selling them down the river. And the rest of us are caught in the current.

Many wrongs need to be righted, but to me these are the four BIGGIES:

  • In the USA, the NRA and other gun lobbying groups defend the “constitutional right to bear arms”. But think about it? Do you believe those fat cats care about your constitutional rights? All they want is to continue the escalation of weapons manufacturing; it is a multi-billion dollar industry.
  • Global warming is real and it is frightening. It is caused by the emission of greenhouse gases. The top two emitters are: China: (9697 million tons (MT) or 28.6%) and the USA: 5420 MT or 16.0%. The population of China is about 1,379,400,000. In the USA it is about 325,000,000. So China is a bigger polluter by 12 %, but it does have 1 billion+ more people. Donald Trump calls global warming a “hoax”.  He claims climate science is “bullshit” and he’s even described it (supposedly as a joke) a “Chinese conspiracy”. What kind of a person would say such a thing?
  • Donald Trump is blaming legal and illegal immigrants for the scarcity of jobs and the sluggish economy in the USA. That’s utter BS. According to the University of Southern California at Santa Cruz report I read, 94% of the USA’s newly-generated wealth is in the hands of 20% of the population (and 42% of that amount belongs to the top 1%). This of course means that 80% of the USA’s population manages only 6%. No wonder so little cash is circulating.
  • Racial tension and religious intolerance are once again boiling topics in the United States. We are born with lots or just a little pigment in our skin; how can that be a valid reason for liking or disliking someone else? The right to worship (or not) is as big a constitutional right as the one that allows people to “pack ‘em”.  Is upholding some rights more profitable than others? D’ya think?

Something is definitely not working.  Not at all.

The upcoming presidential election has me fearing for the future.

hilary and trump 2

How can Donald Trump even be considered as a candidate?

Can you imagine this man holding the codes that could launch a nuclear strike?

Remember how the “free world” rejoiced when the Berlin wall came down? Now Trump wants to build one along the USA-Mexico border. He has vowed to impose tariffs — in the range of 15 to 35 percent — on companies that move their operations to Mexico.

He proposes the use of ethnic and religious profiling to prevent terrorism. He said he would implement a database system to track Muslims living in the United States. Does no one remember how Jews were “tracked” prior to 1939, and what happened after that?

Trump has called for the police to arrest those who protest at his rallies. Isn’t freedom of assembly also a constitutional right?

He says that he tends to err on the side of security, over privacy. Trump supports bringing back now-expired provisions of the “Patriot Act” that allow the NSA to collect and store bulk telephone metadata.

The Free Press Action Fund, a group of tech policy activists, rated Trump the worst 2016 presidential candidate for “citizens’ digital lives,” citing his support of internet censorship and opposing net neutrality.

Several Democrats have told me, “It doesn’t matter if I vote because Trump will lose” – “Bernie Sanders was my man and since he lost, I refuse to vote.” – “The election won’t matter; it will be business as usual no matter who wins”.  They have also informed me that the state of the country is in a total shambles after Barak Obama’s two terms.

Bless their hearts, but I think that is a total cop-out.

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, sit for a family portrait in the Oval Office, Dec. 11, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.Ê

How could Obama have done better? The Republican congress and senate blocked every initiative. Yet through it all, he hung on to his dignity. History will judge the opposition harshly. This period will be known as the last stand of the creepy old white men. Times have changed – they should have joined the rest of the XXI Century.

It is not a legal obligation for citizens of the United States to vote, but I believe it is a moral duty. Trump supporters will be heading to the polls for sure, so those who are not his deluded fan boys and girls, need to get out there and defend all the rest of us who live on the planet. We cannot vote. We depend on you.

This blog does not have a huge audience, but I am using it to state my views. Maybe it is not my place to do so – but I don’t care – I want US citizens to know how people in other countries feel. If this post spurs any eligible voters to get registered and show up on November 8th, I will be thrilled. Every vote counts.

For the good of us all, do not let this election be decided by neglect.

Please go to to this website now   https://www.usa.gov/register-to-vote